Hawaii is a gorgeous group of tropical islands that attracts people from all over the United States and the world for its spectacular beaches, surfing, dining, history and culture. In fact, just last year, Hawaii received a record 9.3 million visitors.
Secret Locations in Hawaii That Only Locals Know
While you can easily have an amazing Hawaiian vacation staying in an affordable resort, frolicking on the more crowded beaches and visiting popular sights like the Dole Plantation, going off the beaten path will open up a new side of Hawaii to you and allow you more space to appreciate its natural beauty.
While some secluded spots, such as Secret Beach, might not be so secret anymore thanks to travel blogs and vacation review sites, most of these places are still far less crowded than typical tourist stops. In fact, if you visit those that are hidden, unmarked or difficult to get to, you could find yourself the only soul there. If that's the kind of trip you're looking for, you should consider visiting these 14 different locations across the Hawaiian Islands that are worth a side trip.
Papakolea Beach, Hawaii
Hawaii famously has beaches that come in many shades of the color spectrum, including white, black, brown and red, but one of its most unique beaches, Papakolea Beach on the Big Island, has green sand. It's actually the only beach in all of the 50 states that has green sand. This phenomenon was caused by the activity of the Mauna Loa volcano, which washed loads of the semi-precious mineral olivine to the shore. Access to the beach takes effort, as you can get to it only by a mile-long hike.
Waioka Pond, Maui
Also known as Venus Pool, Maui's Waioka Pond off the road to Hana is easy to miss unless you're looking for it. After parking, you follow a worn trail through tall grass and past a couple fences for about 2 miles to find a dazzling, secluded freshwater swimming hole, perfect for cliff jumping.
Ka'iwa Ridge Trail, Oahu
Also known as Pillbox Hike, this steep, narrow dirt trail could dissuade some hikers, but it's really one of the shorter and easier hikes on the island, and the views are truly amazing. From the top of the ridge, you can see Mokulua Islands, Kailua and Lanikai. This vantage point is why a pair of pillboxes - fortified concrete lookout stations from World War II - were built there. Sunrise is an ideal time to hike this trail.
Kaihalulu Beach, Maui
Also known as Red Sand Beach, Hana's Kaihalulu Beach is a unique beach that's quite easy to miss despite its striking red-brown colored sand. The little cove inside a cinder cone is great for swimming and cliff-jumping but has no facilities or official trail to reach it. In fact, reaching the steep, slippery slope to the beach requires wandering through a field at the end of a road before finding a homemade sign pointing the way.
Kaumana Cave, Hawaii
While Volcanoes National Park is the largest and most popular national park on the Big Island, Kaumana Caves County Park Trail outside Hilo is one of many beautiful reasons to visit Hawaii. Visitors are free to enter and explore, and they can climb down a steep staircase into the collapsed skylight of the lava tube. Once inside, there are about 2 miles of caves open to the public. They're lit only by sunlight, so bring a flashlight in order to admire the lava formations, including some that cooled so fast they retained their red color instead of turning black.
Waipio Valley Beach, Hawaii
Sheltered from view by 2,000-foot cliffs and deterrent of many visitors by the 3-mile hike to access it, the hidden Waipio Valley Beach is one of the most spectacular beaches in the world because of its black sands and turquoise waters. The stunning Kaluahine Waterfall is at the east end of the beach.
Kauai Glass Beach, Kauai
This beach attracts local fisherman and seals alike, but you have to take a dirt road or walk from the paved area to reach this beach tucked between an industrial area and an old Japanese cemetery. Its location meant a lot of trash used to be dumped around it, which led to its unique sand. Among the grains of sand are millions of bits of colored sea glass that the ocean has worn down over the years. Though collectors have made off with a few pieces, the sand still sparkles with it. Wandering around the beach's lava beds, you'll also see machinery and glass embedded into the rocks, creating a surreal, beautiful sight.
Kalalau Valley, Kauai
Reaching this valley and its pristine beach requires undertaking a scenic 11-mile hike along the Na Pali Coast, one of the best Hawaiian destinations outside of Oahu. With a permit, you're allowed to camp overnight at the beach, which ensures you can really feel like you've gotten away from it all and enjoy the dazzling sunset and sunrise views along the dramatic view of the coast. Another way to appreciate the valley without making the intense hike is driving to Kalalau Lookout.
Papohaku Beach, Molokai
Papohaku Beach, also known as Three Mile Beach, offers a long, wide, uninterrupted stretch of white sand. Despite its appeal, it gets little foot traffic, giving visitors ample space for secluded, romantic strolls as well as access to amenities.
Secret Beach, Maui
While Secret Beach, also known as Paako Beach, on the south side of gorgeous Maui isn't totally a secret anymore, it's still seldom visited because it's located past the more popular Big Beach, and its unassuming entrance is tucked between two black lava rock walls. The palm trees, white sand and lava rocks are so picturesque that it's a popular destination for weddings or engagement photos.
Ehukai Pillbox Hike, Oahu
A well-kept local secret on Oahu is to climb along the Ehukai Pillbox Hike to the old World War II bunkers above Sunset Beach Elementary School at sunset. The short, steep path leads to the summit, a fantastic spot to enjoy a gorgeous sunset. You'll have a scenic view of Banzai Pipeline and the North Shore.
Flickr/Joseph Novak/CC BY 2.0
Kahana Bay, Oahu
Surrounded on three sides by the Ko'olau Mountain Range, Kahana Bay feels closed off from the rest of the world. It's also a lesser known, uncrowded spot. The beach is great for fishing, kayaking and camping, and the smattering of ironwood trees provide nice shade for peaceful picnics.
Waimoku Falls, Maui
Driving the road to Hana on Maui is a daylong affair, and many people pick and choose their stops wisely. Though the 4-mile round trip - up to a three-hour journey - and can be muddy and uneven, the Pipiwai Trail rewards the intrepid. Though there's another waterfall about a half mile into the trail, carry on to the end to witness a jaw-dropping sight: Waimoku Falls. The 400-foot fall is the tallest on the island, and you'll feel it's amazing power standing right at the base.
The historic community of Hanapepe on Kaui inspired the fictional town featured in Disney's "Lilo & Stitch." Visit the many local art galleries and shops and buy some taro chips before strolling on the Swinging Bridge, a suspension bridge that rocks back and forth as you cross. Its charm makes it a nice escape from the bustle of resort areas, proving the merit in exploring towns, villages, and islands that most people don't know about.
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